You just don’t expect it. We were living the perfect family life. We had just had our second child, the boy we wanted after the first child, a beautiful girl. My husband and I had met in a choir at University, and always thought it would be nice to have a quartet some day.
We did as most parents do. We read books, sang songs, and played with both of our children. We enjoyed the busy life of raising two toddlers, sixteen months apart. But a nagging worry surrounded me about my little boy.
At ten months, he sat up, crawled, pulled himself up as a many do at that age, but he had no apparent need to interact with us. I would go into his room in the morning to find him sitting pressed into the corner of his crib. He did not hold up his arms or cry to me to be picked up as his sister had done just months before. While sitting on the living room floor surrounded by toys and books, his preferred toy would be anything that could dangle or flap. He would tap his foot on the floor repetitively while staring at it. I remember joking with my husband, “It looks like he’s Autistic.”
My mother had been a special education teacher, and she brought stories home about the children in her life. Among the children she taught was a boy with Autism. Thinking more about that boy, and watching my own little guy not reach milestones his sister had reached, made me investigate further. I went on to the internet and searched my gut fear, that Timothy had Autism. I looked for criteria for Autism and found a DSM1V, a diagnostic checklist that is used to check for symptoms that are characteristic of Autism. Timothy had many of them.
Being only sixteen months at the time, it was hard to find anyone who could diagnose him. We lived in a large city, and our own pediatrician told us that this was typical male development. We would have to watch over a longer period of time to reach any kind of diagnosis. But having researched autism extensively, being fairly confident that I knew my own child, and wanting the best outcome for our family, I pressed on for answers.
I contacted the local Autism Society and received a list of local services and doctors. We decided on a pediatrician who specialized in developmental disorders and was associated with a children’s hospital. She observed Tim on a rainy Friday. My husband and I both knew what she would find.
As part of her observation, she asked for us to leave the office and return to see if there would be any separation difficulties. I knew there would be none. I often joked we could leave Timothy with the mailman and as long as he was fed and watered, he would be happy. We truly wanted him to cry for us, but there were no tears except our own. The doctor told us she expected autism, but would have to watch him over a longer period of time. We cried, and she asked us, “Isn’t what I am telling you what you expected?” I replied, “I really wanted to be wrong.”
Timothy is now ten years old. He is a beautiful boy and we have done the best we can for him. We have had many challenges over the years, but what I have learned from the outset is to follow my gut. We knew Tim had Autism before anyone, and we followed our instincts to do what was best for him. We have always found that if we persevere, we can get the help that we need.
There are many people who have helped us along the way including family, friends and a long list of professionals. But I have to say the greatest teacher, guide, helper I have had on this journey has to be my son, Timothy. He taught me to follow my instincts, to persevere when it doesn’t seem worth it anymore, and how to love unconditionally.
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism experience.